Two men argue over a life: one is in favour of suicide, while the other, if not opposed, is casually sceptical. Rather than the passionate struggle between life and death one might imagine, this takes the form of an impersonal audit conducted by two bureaucrats, who value life empirically to the point of absurdity. Deposition after deposition is produced, all testifying to the misery of the man’s life.
One of Beckett’s later work, Rough For Theatre Two is a one-act play filled with his trademark minimalism and dry situational humour. In a scenario like this, everything rests on the actors’ performances. Thankfully, Sam Turnbull and Tom Pinney make a delightful double act, generating laughs where you wouldn’t expect, switching fluidly from slapstick to wordplay without a jarring contrast. Pity the poor actor who stands motionless on a windowsill for an hour.
As ever with Beckett, the meaning is obscure. A meditation about how life should be valued? Black comedy? Perhaps a starting point to consider how ones own life would appear if weighed up in purely bureaucratic terms. Considering Beckett, probably all three.
Although thought-provoking, well-produced and surprisingly funny, Beckett’s work is not for everyone. If this evening, like Croker on the window sill, you are unable to choose whether or not you should stay or you should go, ask yourself if a piece of absurdist minimalist theatre about weighing up a man’s life appeals. If not, stay where you are, but if so then it would be a wise choice to throw yourself in.